(AP) — SANTOS, Brazil It’s difficult to imagine modern soccer, or Brazil, without Pelé 45 years after he last played.
Geovana Sarmento, 17, waited in a three-hour line to see his body at the stadium where he spent the majority of his career. She arrived with her father, who was dressed in a Brazil shirt with Pelé’s name on it.
“Neither I nor my father are fans of Santos. But he created Brazil’s national team. He made Santos stronger and bigger; how could you not admire him? We needed to honor him because he is one of the greatest people ever,” she said.
Pelé will be laid to rest on Tuesday in the city where he grew up, became famous, and helped make a global soccer capital. Before his casket is escorted through the streets of Santos to a nearby cemetery, a Catholic Mass will be held at the Vila Belmiro stadium.
Brazil’s newly inaugurated President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva paid his respects at Vila Belmiro after being sworn in for a third term after a comeback victory on Sunday.
After a battle with cancer, the soccer legend died on Thursday at the age of 82. He is the only player in history to have won three World Cups.
Thousands of mourners, including high school students and Supreme Court justices, filed past Pelé’s body on the century-old field where he helped his hometown team become one of the best in Brazil. Pelé’s coffin was placed on the midfield area of Vila Belmiro, draped in Brazilian and Santos FC football club flags.
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